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The Tour in Torment July 25, 2007

Posted by dperry1ma in Andreas Kloden, Andrey Kashechkin, Astana, Christian Moreni, Dennis Menchov, Doping, Michael Boogerd, Michael Rasmussen, Patrik Sinkewitz, Rabobank, T-Mobile, Theo DeRooy, Tour de France.
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In an unbelievable and dizzying turn of events, 17 riders across three teams have been withdrawn from the Tour in the past 30 hours. 9 riders of Astana, (including 5th place Andreas Kloden and 8th place Andrey Kashechkin), 7 riders of Team Cofidis (all of whom had participated in a sit down protest against riders doping at the start of the stage today), and the Yellow Jersey wearing Rabobank rider, Michael Rasmussen, who had all but guaranteed himself a spot on the podium in Paris with a win in today’s stage.

It is not clear whether any or all of the remaining riders in Rabobank will continue with the Tour when it resumes tomorrow so 7 more riders may withdraw voluntarily by morning, including 17th place Michael Boogerd and 23rd place Dennis Menchov.

Only three riders have failed doping tests during the Tour, Patrik Sinkewitz (T-Mobile) who was already withdrawn by the time the results were announced, Alexander Vinokourouv, who had just won 2 out of the last 3 stages when his results were announced and Christian Moreni, who was dramatically arrested by French officials at the finish of today’s stage. However, the zero tolerance environment that is evolving within the sports’ official bodies (the UCI and national federations), within the event organizations and within the ranks of sponsors, has resulted in the decimation of the tour’s competitors and a PR bloodbath that may change the face of professional racing for decades to come.

It should be noted that Rasmussen has been tested repeatedly before and during this year’s Tour (he claims 14 tests) and has not failed any tests to date. However, in the face of the drastic and dramatic moves by organizers, teams and their sponsors in the Sinkewitz, Vinokourov and Moreni incidents, many were calling for Rabobank, or the Tour, to act and remove Rasmussen from the race before his behavior did any more damage to the reputation of the Tour or the heralded Maillot Jaune. Apparently the revelation that Rasmussen was training in Italy in June when he missed out of competition doping tests, not Mexico as he claimed, was all that Rabobank and its team manager Theo DeRooy could take. DeRooy has said that he will give the other Rabobank riders the option of continuing on with the race tomorrow when Stage 17 begins.

Regardless of what the Rabobank riders decide to do, this Tour de France has become one of the craziest sporting events in recent memory. Great riders who are clean have lost the chance to compete and win, good riders who are trying to win their way onto teams for next year are sitting at home, and sponsors who have honored and polished the sport for years are packing their bags. Hopefully, the damage that is done will set the stage for a rebirth of professional cycling, and a new era in the Grand Tours, but for the innocent riders who are hurt because of this there is no way to recover the time and opportunity lost.

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